The Foster Letter

Religious Market Update

The FOSTER Letter is a bi-weekly e-mail religious market intelligence report targeted to Christian market channel and ministry leaders.  Each issue reports on news, trends, events and research that will directly or indirectly impact your audiences and businesses in a convenient summary format  Better informed leaders make better choices!

Researched, Edited & Published by Gary D. Foster


Excerpts from the

August 10, 2019 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


Navigating Pastoral Change Every pastor is an interim pastor. A new Barna report examines how churches navigate pastoral change and stay healthy amidst the shift. Barna grouped pastoral successions into 3 major types based on the circumstances directing the leadership change. The 1st is planned transitions, which are planned in advance of the change (17%); 2nd is pastor-initiated transitions, set into motion by a decision from the outgoing pastor (62%) and the 3rd is forced transitions, triggered by unexpected circumstances such as illness, death or crisis (13%). 15% of pastors step back from the senior pastor role and move into a co-pastor or associate pastor role. 20% withdraw from the senior pastor role into lay leadership or regular congregation membership and 56% depart the congregation entirely. When a transition is planned in advance, more than half of outgoing pastors stick around, either as a staff or lay member. Planned transitions tend to produce the most positive outcomes, especially when the congregation is involved in the process. It can smooth the leadership shift and produce more positive outcomes for everyone involved. When a congregation plans long before a transition is initiated, it can shorten the overall time of a transition once the process is launched. (Barna 8/6/19)


Trusting in God’s Faithfulness LifeWay Research’s 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment study found 72% of Protestant churchgoers disagree with the statement: “During difficult circumstances, I sometimes doubt that God loves me and will provide for my life,” with 50% strongly disagreeing and 5% strongly agreeing, 13% somewhat agreeing and 10% neither agree nor disagree. 36% of Protestant churchgoers strongly agree they make everything they own available to God, while 33% somewhat agree, 20% neither agree nor disagree and 10% disagree. Females (39%) are more likely than males (32%) to strongly agree. 73% disagree with the statement, “I sometimes doubt that God can change the lives of non-Christians I know,” while 50% strongly disagree, 11% neither agree nor disagree and 17% doubt God’s ability to do so. 14% say they “typically doubt God is involved when things happen in their lives they can’t explain,” 71% disagree and 44% strongly disagree. (Fact s & Trends 7/16/19)


Bible Tax Avoided Bibles and religious literature currently are no longer subject to the upcoming 10% tariff hike set to be imposed on goods imported from China, set to begin 9/1/19. Previously, Bibles were among the items to see a price increase as part of the growing trade war between the U.S. and China. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has released 2 lists of the items, those that will be subject to the tariff in September and those whose tariffs will be postponed until 12/15/19. Religious literature, including the Bible, are no longer on either list. Currently China is home to the world’s largest Bible printing company and more than 75% of Bibles are printed there. (Baptist Press 8/14/19)


New Revenue Streams I can help you maximize existing revenue sources or discover brand new ones compatible with your vision and resources. Contact 419-238-4082, or


Clergy Viewed Less Positively A new NORC/AP poll shows doctors, teachers, members of the military, even scientists, are viewed more positively than clergy. The less frequently people attend church, the more negative their views. Among those who attend less than once a month, only 42% said they had a positive view of clergy members, a rate comparable to lawyers who rank near the bottom of the list of professions. While frequent church attenders still hold clergy in high regard, about 75% viewed them positively, giving them only passing grades on a number of personal attributes. Only 52% of monthly churchgoers consider clergy trustworthy vs. 23% among those who attend less than once a month. 57% said they were honest and intelligent vs. 30% among infrequent attenders. The survey confirms previous studies. Historians say public attitudes about clergy have been waning since the 1970s. (RNS 7/16/19)


Older Generations in the U.S. are more likely to identify with and practice Christianity, according to Barna Research data. Elders are the most likely adult generation to self-identify as Christian (83%). Boomers are close behind at 80% followed by Gen X at 73% and Millennials at just 64%. The same is true among the more committed category of practicing Christians (Christians who attend church every month and say their faith is very important in their lives). 37% of Elders practice their faith in this way vs. 30% of Boomers, 26% of Gen X and 22% of Millennials. (Barna Update 7/23/19)


Why People Don’t Read the Bible According to Barna Research, the top 4 reasons people don’t read the Bible are: •Lack of time. •The language is difficult. •They don’t get excited to read it. • They don’t understand the background or history. ( 8/5/19)


Bible as Literal or Inspired Word of God Presented with 5 different ways of describing the Bible, more adults believe the Bible is inspired (with some symbolism) than literal. A plurality of Americans believe the Bible is the inspired word and is without errors, yet some verses are meant to be symbolic rather than literal, a view held by 30%. The second most common belief is the Bible is the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word (22%). An equal number believe the Bible is just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice (21%) leaving 17% who believe it is inspired but contains factual or historical errors and 10% that it is not inspired by God but tells how the writers understood the ways and principles of God. The younger a person is the more likely he or she is to say the Bible is just another book of teachings written by men. 27% of Millennials believe this vs. 21% of Gen X, 18% of Boomers and 14% of Elders. (State of the Bible 2019, American Bible Society)


Fact Vs. Values Relentless repetition was once enough to drive your message home. Not anymore! Fact-based state-ments can be proven or disproven objectively. But the “truth” of a values-based statement hinges on agreed-upon values. Modern advertising overflows with values-based statements, e.g. “Big selection,” “High quality,” “Low prices,” “Easy credit.” Even though they may be true in the mind of the advertiser, the public has heard them all before. The left hemispheres of our brains detect and prefer fact-based statements. Today we are hype-immune and hunger for statements of fact. To persuade today’s hype-resistant customer, you must learn to make fact-based statements in your ads. I can help you make sure your ads are not just repeating clichés but clearly delivering meaningful facts that will deliver results. All you have to do is contact me at 419-238-4082, or (Monday Morning Memo 9/26/05, Foster Network)


Faith Practice Across Generations Among self-identified Christians overall, Elders and Boomers lead in reporting a weekly habit of prayer (84% each), followed by Gen X (82%) and Millennials (78%). Practicing Christians are almost twice as likely as self-identified Christians to have read the Bible in the last 7 days, with Millennials and Boomers reporting the top percentages (71% each). Practicing Christians’ weekly attendance is also double that of the average Christian. The proportion decreases marginally from Elders (83%) and Boomers (81%) to Gen X (77%) and Millennials (79%). (Barna Update 7/23/19)


Does Life Have Meaning? A new United Kingdom survey shows an overwhelming 89% of 16-29 year-olds believe life has no purpose or meaning. Answers In Genesis’ Ken Ham says it can be directly attributed to the decline of Christianity in the country along with the teaching of evolutionary theory. This compares to 55% of those over 60 who believe the same. Only 2% of 18-24s are affiliated with the Church of England. Among all age groups, 80% in Britain said life has no meaning or purpose. (Christian Headlines 8/14/19)


Beyond Opportunities of Service 74% of regular Protestant churchgoers see their acts of service as a way to also get to know others. 33% strongly agree that when they have the opportunity to serve someone, they also try to get to know the person better. Women (35%) are more likely to strongly agree than men, as are regular churchgoers with less than a college degree (36%) vs. those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher (29%). Those who attend worship services 4 times a month or more (35%) are more likely to strongly agree than those who attend less frequently (28%). (Outreach 7/16/19)


Spiritual Conversations According to LifeWay Research’s 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment, 15% of U.S. Protestant churchgoers strongly assert that matters of faith are a part of their regular conversations with fellow believers. In total, 39% disagreed with the statement: “Spiritual matters do not tend to come up as a normal part of my daily conversations with other Christians.” 26% aren’t sure while 35% agree that when they talk with other Christians, religious issues don’t usually come up. Females (17%) are more likely than males (11%) to strongly indicate they regularly have conversations with other Christians about spiritual matters. Evangelical Protestants (17%) and black Protestants (15%) are also more likely than mainline Protestants (7%) to strongly affirm faith issues that come up in their daily conversations. ( 7/25/19)


There’s a Rise in Cyberbullying nationwide, with 3 times as many girls reporting being harassed online or by text message than boys, according to a U.S. Department of Education study. Many school systems that once had a hands-off approach to dealing with off-campus student behavior are now making cyberbullying rules, outlining punishments such as suspension or expulsion. The survey found 1 in 5 students reported being bullied; ranging from rumors or being excluded, to threats and physical attacks in the ’16-’17 school year. That’s unchanged from the previous survey done in ’14-’15. But in that 2-year span, cyberbullying reports increased from 11.5% to 15.3%. Broken down by gender, 21% of girls in middle and high school reported being bullied online or by text message in the ’16-’17 school year vs. less than 7% of boys. (AP News 7/26/19)


Far Reaching Effects of Regular Bible Reading A ’16 LifeWay Research study of churchgoing Protestant parents, found regular Bible reading as a child was the biggest factor in predicting the spiritual health of young adults. Their latest survey finds Bible reading as an adult has similar far-reaching effects. When churchgoers were asked if they find them-selves thinking about biblical truths throughout the day, 32% of Protestant churchgoers strongly agree, 12% disagree and 20% aren’t sure. In total, 69% at least somewhat agree. 33% of Protestant churchgoers strongly agree they desperately miss the time with God if they go several days without reading the Bible while 58% at least somewhat agree, 20% disagree and 22% neither agree nor disagree. The more regular the Bible reading habit, the more likely churchgoers are to say they miss that time with God. (Baptist Press 7/2/19)


Planning Pays “There are two areas in finance where world-class organizations have actually increased spending relative to revenues. One of those is compliance and the second is planning and analysis,” says Bryan Hall, a Hackett Group finance consultant. I can help you craft and monitor your plan. Contact 419-238-4082, or (CFO 12/07)


Most Americans are familiar with some of the basics of Christianity and even know a few facts about Islam. But fewer get questions right about Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism. 8 in 10 U.S. adults know in the Christian tradition, Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus – rather than the Crucifixion, the Ascension to heaven or the Last Supper. A similar share know the Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds there is one God in 3 persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And 6 in 10 know Ramadan is an Islamic holy month and that Mecca is Islam’s holiest city. However, just 25% know Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. 18% know that the “truth of suffering” is part of Buddhism’s 4 “noble truths” and 15% correctly identify the Vedas as Hindu texts. (Pew Research 7/23/19)


Zombie Eaters The average American is spending more time staring at a screen than ever before. A new survey of adults found a whopping 88% are so-called “zombie eaters” who stare at some type of screen while eating. In fact, the average U.S. eater will stare at their phone twice over the course of any given meal and will only have 5 screen-free meals per week. 91% of respondents reported watching TV while eating a meal or snack and 49% say they do so on a regular basis. 83% have had food go cold while they deliberate on what to watch and 86% have even forgotten to eat their meal because they were preoccupied by a screen. (Study Finds 7/24/19)



For information on how to become a subscriber to the entire 3-4 page Foster Letter---Religious Market Update, E-mail us at: